The first moment I really felt like I was properly home was when Neil wrapped his arms around me in the airport and I stuck my nose against his cheek.
Flying was easy. Even with the 10 hours and the small child kicking the back of my seat for 8 of those 10 hours, I was pretty serene. I'd done it all before - the hot towels, the watching movies till my eyes hurt, the getting checked through customs and patiently waiting for my luggage and calling to let everybody know I'd arrived and ... even the staying at Maija's house and getting to see Miranda and Maija and Jeff - my family stop before I made my way home home. Everything was buoyed up by the fact that I was actually on my way, one step closer to my love, one step closer to the world we've created around us and the people I'd left behind for a couple of months and everything that was wonderful about all of those things.
And now that I've been home for a couple of days I feel like it's beginning to sink in. I spent all that time imagining it while I was in my little closet of a room in Tokyo (well, ok, also obsessing about it when I was in my homestay room because ... homestay... yeah). gray_ghost asked me last night to tell him my best experience about the whole trip, but I don't know if I can point to a single thing and say "wow, that was the one, the pinnacle".
Really, despite my bitching and complaining (it's what I do), it really was a fantastic trip. I love Tokyo. I love Japan. And now that I'm home, I'm already starting to think about what I'll do when I go back, about how I'm going to do it differently and better and how I'm going to miss the people I went with the first time.
There may be no absolute perfect moment that I can point to and say "yes, that was it, that was the perfect moment" but there are a thousand little ones that add up to the greatness of the trip. The first time I realized I knew what the announcers on the train were saying when they spoke in Japanese. The first time I took the train on my own, without the group tour. The times when I could actually communicate with people and the knew what I was saying. Standing on the steps of the Sensoji temple in Asakusa with Tebo just listening to the monks chant for a couple of minutes. Walking across streets FILLED with people, walking through trainstations jampacked. Being tipsy and catching the last train just in the nick of time from Ni-chome to Sangobashi. The feel of the afternoon breeze in the valley surrounded by the iris of the imperial iris gardens. The look of the fog and mist through the trees in Nikko. The breaks between classes where we'd all run to the jidouhanbaiki and grab our juice drink to keep us awake. The giddy heart-hammering feeling of performing our skit in front of other people and having them laugh at the right times. Greeting the guards at the front gate of NYC every time we went out with a little bow and the proper greeting - and smelling their incense as we walked by (Tebo figured out later it was to keep the bugs away, and not some little alter they were keeping going). Being surrounded by a sea of dark hair, and trying not to grin as other caucasians edged away from me in trains. Figuring out how to look up books at the Diet Library even though my Japanese isn't that good. The feel of a train as it rattles down the tracks be it JR or metro. Finding the kid's celebration in Yoyogi-Hatchiman with hundreds of little kids all dressed in kimono. The smells of the food stalls in Asakusa on the festival day. The joy of leafing through the used book stores in Jimbocho - didn't matter that I couldn't read the titles, I figured out what they were anyway and every book was a kind of puzzle and an answer all in one. My ah ha moment after Marius asked the only real question that needed to be asked in those two weeks: what can you do here that you can't do there? Arty Farty's. Karoke. Yummy Japanese food - kaitenzushi the second time and sukiyaki and that last place we went that i can't remember the name of. Getting back to NYC from Mobarra and never feeling greater relief at getting to settle myself in and unpack a little and just have a bed and a door with a key that was mine again. Being awake at 6 in the morning riding the subway, and again at 8 to walk around Shinjuku. Looking at porn in Akihabara. Looking at pastries in the windows of the french bakery at Sangobashi. Riding the left side of the escaltor and finally getting enough of a sense of balance to stand without using the hand-bars while riding the subway.
And the people - can't forget the people - all the dramas and the love and the annoyance and the laughter and the silly. People who were great guides like Tebo, who'd just a soon get you a little lost so you can discover a new way home - who reminded me that you don't have to care so intensily about finding the right way if it's the journey that matters. And Megan who always took the time instead of rushing through everything to simply say she'd seen it - kept my pace a little slower and my eyes a little wider open. And Jonny and Gu who were ready to throw themselves into things with their whole hearts, even though they both tried to talk the talk and walk the walk of the jaded. Andrea, whose japanese made my head hurt because she talked so fast, but who made me work harder and feel better about what I could do - Sarrin who saw me freaking out about my school work and then studied with me so that I did better than I ever would have without her (and who was a sweetheart inside even if she started out seeming like the woman who didn't care).
I'm going to miss them all just as much as I miss Tokyo because they're all bound up in that, all part of that adventure that consumed me for two months, and that probably will consume a small corner of my heart forever.
And now, with the rain coming down outside, i give you a stanza from one of my favorites in the Tolkien books:
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.
(picture post, of course, forthcoming...)